Vendela Eriksdotter Rubin is 20 years old. She raises and trains horses, runs her own company and aims for a career as an elite rider – in both dressage and eventing riding (although she has just taken a break from larger competitions in dressage). In addition, she is studying for her degree at Chalmers University of Technology. As an elite athlete, she can study with support from the Swedish National Sports University, and with the ability to study at half speed and be a bit more flexible in the courses. But she still keeps busy and must carefully manage her time.
“It's all about valuating my time – prioritising and setting boundaries. I can't participate in every little thing I could do. I need to choose the things I believe will get me to the top. It’s those things I have to prioritise,” she says.
Vendela Eriksdotter Rubin has learned to manage and plan her time since high school which she studied on distance. After high school, she had a sabbatical to fully focus on starting a business and becoming an elite rider.
“Even though my days were packed with physical work, I quickly got mentally restless. I really felt I wanted to start studying, just to stimulate my brain,” she says.
She applied and got into Chemical Engineering with Physics at Chalmers.
“During the first course, I thought ‘what have I done, I’ll never make it!’ In addition, my best horse became ill and died, just as I had a big exam coming up. But even though I didn't think it was possible, I passed the exam! Things like that raise your confidence and give a feeling that you can do more than you think,” says Vendela Eriksdotter Rubin.
Student counsellor helps draw the road map
“As a National Sports University student, I am responsible to do all the courses in my programme, but I get more flexibility and mobility within the courses. And each semester, I put together a plan with my study counselor, which I start from,” she says.
Vendela Eriksdotter Rubin has chosen to attend class 2–3 days a week, as she commutes to Chalmers from the farm outside Varberg. The rest of her time is spent managing both the family's and sometimes others' horses, training for both herself and the horses and travelling to competitions.
From February to March 2020, she is competing in the Barroca International Horse Trials in Portugal with the aim to qualify for Senior European Championships in France 2021.
“I’m riding the younger of my horses in that competition,” she says.
At the moment, she has five horses of her own that are mostly allowed to go loose, in a flock in a large pasture outdoors.
“It is quite unusual among elite competition and breeding horses, because there is a slightly increased risk of acute injury. But for me it is all about ethics. I want to be able to look my horse in the eyes. After a competition I let it run free with its friends for a few weeks. Sometimes I even take its shoes off. After a while, the horse comes up to me and I can tell that it is hungry for training again. It is a heartwarming feeling,” she says.
Many opportunities as engineer
If she continues to study at half-speed, she will take her degree in 2028. Today she does not know exactly what she wants to work with, but it will surely be in the area of equestrian sports and horses. And she can see many opportunities with her degree.
“I want to get away from the tradition in the horse world, that you have to muck your way to a career. It is so unnecessary with all the new technologies and new innovations just waiting to be used and developed. Not least when building new stables,” says Vendela Eriksdotter Rubin.
“But it still is hard for the body to work with horses for a whole lifetime, and that is why I want a good education to fall back on. I believe I’m getting that at Chalmers.”
Text: Helena Österling af Wåhlberg